When President Bush landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, he was greeted with a huge banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished." U.S. forces had quickly routed Saddam Hussein's army, and many Americans were under the impression that our troops soon would be coming home. But as we approach the June 30 deadline for turning control of Iraq over to the UN-chosen government in Baghdad, we can see no end in sight for U.S. involvement and no clear exit strategy for American forces. The cost to America in blood and treasure already has been enormous and is likely to escalate as we move into the new Iraqi political arrangement, where the fuzzy lines of authority are preset for confusion, contention and confrontation.
So what, precisely, is the U.S. mission in Iraq, and when will it be accomplished? The answers to those questions are far different from what most Americans think. Our "mission," we are led to believe by many statements emanating from the Bush administration, is to combat terrorists who threaten our existence. However, a close examination of the administration's statements and policies shows that there is a much larger mission involved--one that aims at a complete reordering of the American constitutional order and the present world order of sovereign nation-states. As we enter into this new phase of the Iraq War, it is imperative that we make a sober appraisal of the damage that already is being accomplished by this mission and do everything within our powers to avert or limit further harm. We offer the following brief assessment.
* Lowering the threshold for war. The genuine patriot realizes that any nation that hopes to survive and to be free must be ready and willing to defend itself. However, the decision to commit a nation to war--the most extreme act of the State, almost always entailing great destruction, suffering and loss of life--should only be made for a just cause. And even then, a nation should only go to war when all other options have been exhausted. Initiating aggression is wrong. In the case of our invasion of Afghanistan, the administration could reasonably argue that the al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the 9-11 attacks were using Afghanistan as their base of operations. We had been viciously attacked and had suffered grievous losses; we were justified in seeking retribution against those responsible.
The same argument cannot be reasonably applied to Iraq. The Bush administration offered no proof that Saddam Hussein was connected to the 9-11 attacks and has never directly charged him with being connected to it. However, prior to 9-11 the administration was inordinately fixated on Iraq as the center of an axis of evil in the world, and after 9-11 it repeatedly insinuated (without actually saying) that there was a direct tie between the Butcher of Baghdad and the terrorist attacks on America. The White House deception strategy has proven very effective; opinion polls have shown that most Americans believe that Saddam was involved in the attacks. The American people were beguiled into supporting the Iraq War, believing it to be a war on the terrorists who had hit us first.
In addition, the administration repeatedly warned that Iraq directly and imminently threatened the U.S. with huge stockpiles of dangerous Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). This dire warning was false, but, as opinion polls have shown, many Americans were led to believe that it was true.
In short, the Bush administration launched an offensive war against another nation not shown to have attacked us, and was able to beguile Americans into supporting this aggressive act on the basis of deception.
* Unleashing U.S. war powers. Under our Constitution, no single person--not even the president--may decide to unleash the dogs of war. The U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of our nation, grants the power to declare war only to Congress. The Founders …